Journal of Child and Family Studies

, Volume 19, Issue 4, pp 471–482 | Cite as

Adolescents’ Social Reasoning About Relational Aggression

Original Paper


We examined early adolescents’ reasoning about relational aggression, and the links that their reasoning has to their own relationally aggressive behavior. Thinking about relational aggression was compared to thinking about physical aggression, conventional violations, and personal behavior. In individual interviews, adolescents (N = 103) rated the acceptability of relational aggression, physical aggression, conventional violations, and personal behavior, and justified their ratings. Results indicated that adolescents’ views about relational aggression are complex. Although gossip was viewed as very wrong (comparable to beliefs about physical aggression), exclusion was perceived to be somewhat acceptable (less wrong than conventional violations, but more wrong than personal behaviors). With regard to associations between beliefs about aggression and aggressive behavior, the results indicated that beliefs about gossip were associated with gossiping behavior, and that beliefs about physical aggression were associated with physically aggressive behavior. No links emerged between beliefs about exclusion and exclusionary behavior. Implications and suggestions for future research are discussed within the frameworks of social domain theory and social information processing models of aggressive behavior.


Aggression Social reasoning Social cognition Peer relationships Early adolescence 



We would like to thank the participating principals, parents, and adolescents for making this research possible.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Family and Child StudiesMontclair State UniversityMontclairUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyBowling Green State UniversityBowling GreenUSA

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